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Key Won’t Turn in Car: How to Fix the Problem

Key won’t turn in your car? This could be a simple issue with a simple fix. Or it could mean that it’s time to head to the garage. In any case, there are a few things you can try to address the cause of the problem, and to find a solution.

Key Won’t Turn in Car

Don’t force it! This could bend or break your key. And if you bend your key, or break it in the ignition slot, then you’ll either need a new key, a new ignition cylinder, or both. Instead, first try and determine the cause of the problem.

Why Won’t My Car Key Turn

Your key might not turn in your car for a number of different reasons. Finding out the cause of your problem is the key to fixing it. It could be a problem with your:

  • Key
  • Ignition cylinder
  • Steering
  • Gears

We’ll discuss each of these in detail below.

Problems With Your Key that Stop it Turning

If your key won’t turn in your car, it might just mean that you’ve worn your key out through using it every day.

Check your key for signs of damage. Also make sure there’s nothing stuck to the key, or that there’s no grime in its grooves.

If your key’s starting to wear, you’ll need to replace it as soon as possible. But you may be able to get a bit more use out of it for the time being. Just push the key all the way in, then pull it out again a tiny little bit. This could engage the pins you need to start your car. But even if this does work, take it as a sign that you should get a new key as soon as possible!

Have you got a spare key for your car? Try using that, to see if it solves the problem. Don’t have a spare key? Then talk to your dealership about getting a replacement. You could also call a locksmith, who might be able to create a replacement key for you.

Problems With Your Ignition Cylinder

If using a different key doesn’t solve the problem, then there might be something wrong with your ignition slot and cylinder. It might be congested, or it might just be getting stiff over time.

There are a few things you can try here. First, try gently putting your key in the ignition, then taking it out again, and repeating this a few times. This might dislodge any dirt or grime currently clogging up your ignition slot.

You can also try lubricating or cleaning your cylinder. Canned air could safely dislodge any dirt or debris. As for lubrication, WD40 might work, though it may leave some residue that could cause further damage in time. So instead, use a more specialist lubricant, such as silicone lubricant, or liquid graphite.

This might fix the problem, but don’t be surprised if it happens again before long. If you have to resort to lubricant to get your ignition cylinder working again, then it might mean that the cylinder’s on its last legs. If you want a more lasting solution, head to a garage as soon as you can.

A Problem With Your Steering

It could be a locked steering wheel that’s making it hard to turn your key in your ignition. You might have accidentally locked your steering wheel by turning the wheel after having removed your key from the ignition.

We have a detailed guide to unlocking your steering wheel, which you can read here. But like with a stuck key, it’s important not to force things. Be as gentle as you can with both your key and your steering, to avoid causing any further damage.

An Obvious Fix – Are you in the right gear?

One last thing to consider: if you drive an automatic, is your transmission in park or neutral?

It might sound obvious, but it’s easy to overlook these things! For safety reasons, automatic cars will only start when they’re set to park or neutral. So check your gearstick, and set it to P or N if need be.

Get Help

If you snap your key in your ignition, call a locksmith. They’ll be able to extract the key, and they might even be able to cut you a replacement on the spot.

But if you’ve a more serious problem with your ignition or your steering, then a locksmith won’t be able to help you. You’ll need a mechanic!

It’s best to be prepared for these situations. So if you’ve not done so already, consider getting breakdown cover as an add-on to your comprehensive car insurance.